Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Writing for your reader

Blimey, one month has passed. In that month I've moved house, written a load more of A Baby's Bones 2, received copies of book 2 in all its shiny blueness, received a copy of the Finnish version (also lovely!), struggled with depression and decorated two rooms in my house. Presently we have about 50% of our books on shelves, and the rest in the storage container. Everyone has a bed (at last) and the cats have explored every cupboard, under floorboard space and possible way to the outside. Normal life is starting to creep in. With it is a reminder to myself that I need to write first draft for me, then second and subsequent drafts for the reader.

I am surrounded by pretty talented writers at my local group, and some of them could and should be working their way up the publication ladder. The difference between me and some of them is the editing process is the need to switch from pleasing yourself to pleasing a reader who doesn't know your character inside out, who doesn't know what's going on in your head. 

A classic mistake is introducing too many characters in the first chapter. To a reader that's just confusion waiting to happen, and if I am confused by a book, I put it down. That's compounded if I can't form a representation of the name in my head. A name from another culture, a made up name for fantasy or names that are too alike compounds the difficulty for the reader. I chose (it's a family name) Guichard for my male protagonist. That's Gee-shar to the French, Gwee-shar for the English. I ended up having to get Felix to pronounce it for his audience in book 1 - also for the reader. I had to do the same in book 2. It's my own fault, I should have gone with something less exotic. 

I'm enjoying writing a book that isn't sold, it's a different kind of pressure. I'm writing more for me, while being open to changing it for an audience once they've been identified. But for now, I'm following Viola over the beautiful - but dangerous - landscape of sixteenth century Dartmoor.


  1. Interesting point about the pronunciation of names.

    I'm totally with you when it comes to making names distinct one from another, and making them readable off the page. I dislike long, multi-syllable names with apostrophes, hyphens and other symbols in them - something that happens all too often in fantasy - and I regularly abbreviate incomprehensible names. As to pronunciation, though, when asked, I always tell the reader that the correct pronunciation is the one he chooses to adopt. An example from the husband's books is his planet Gereon. He pronounces it with a hard 'G' and I pronounce it with a soft 'G'. There is no conflict.

    Would you mind terribly if a reader called your character Gwit-Chard? I rather doubt it. Smiles.

    1. You're right of course! I don't care how they read the names if they read the book. But I struggle with all those deliberately difficult to pronounce names - if I can't come up with a mental representation of the name I'll forget it!

  2. I'm glad everything's chugging along nicely for you, both with your writing and in the rest of your life!
    You describe the problems of too many characters very well. I know it's something I've always struggled with, even when I try to tone it down.
    Hope you're well and enjoying getting stuck in with your writing.